peter fitzgerald quote web

Retailers have long handed handsome pay packets to stars of TV and the big screen to promote their brands, but what constitutes a famous face is changing. Variety found out that eight out of 10 of US teenagers’ favourite stars are YouTube creators. Traditional big draws like Will Smith or Johnny Depp languished near the bottom of the Top 20 ranking.

Similarly, Tesco Mobile produced a study showing young people in the UK would rather be a successful vlogger than a reality TV star. The poll also showed that social media metrics are the benchmark of fame - if you have not amassed two million YouTube subscribers or over half a million Twitter followers, don’t bother getting an agent.

YouTube vloggers, such as Zoella, Alfie Deyes and PewDiePie, have created deep and lasting relationships with their loyal followers. Nearly a third of young people watch a vlogger clip at least twice a week and almost a sixth say they watch their favourite YouTube stars over 10 times a week. Digitally savvy retailers are beginning to understand the impact of the new ‘culture makers’ and are working with them to reach millennials, light TV viewers and other passionate audiences.

Vloggers have built their audiences by being true to themselves and place a premium on staying authentic no matter how popular they become. Brands therefore cannot use them as mouthpieces for advertising messages but instead must cede some control and treat the projects with them as a genuine partnership.

Tips for a successful brand collaboration include accepting that a linear narrative with a traditional ‘call to action’ will not work in this new creative and interactive space; identifying a shared purpose with the celebrity (for instance, a healthier eating drive with a food vlogger); and ensuring the content meets the expectations of the fans and taps into their enthusiasms.

Retail brands that have already used YouTube and ‘subculture’ talent to connect with the younger demographic include Argos, which worked with rapper Katy B for a live music event, and Maybelline New York, which teamed up with 13 vloggers for its Dare To Go Nude campaign.

Finally, brands must not think the buzz surrounding the new breed of celebs is reserved purely for the young. There are YouTube stars who appeal to a wide demographic, such as make-up guru and mum-of-two Lisa Eldridge, who works with supermodels, fashion brands and globetrotting photographers.

It will pay dividends to start thinking how to best to work with today’s video stars now, as they will surely dominate multiple media channels and turbo-boost their reach in the near future.

Peter Fitzgerald is country sales director at Google UK